Committee throws out housing scheme

A bid to build executive houses at the northern gateway to Morpeth has been unanimously rejected by councillors.

Storey Homes had applied for permission to build 39 homes south of The Dell in Fulbeck.

Northumberland County Council planning officers had recommended approval, but councillors had other ideas.

And the North Area Planning Committee was told that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would call-in the application if it was granted.

County councillor for Morpeth North David Bawn said: “This was a great example of the committee taking on board the legitimate concerns of local residents and their representatives, which has preserved one of the gems of Morpeth.”

The site has a long history of planning refusals, but the latest plans attracted 19 letters of support, citing sustainability, housing need, junction improvements, landscaping and creative design.

However, there were 23 objections, and Coun Bob Robertson spoke of Morpeth Town Council’s opposition, highlighting its view that the site should be considered as part of a strategic plan, as well as worries about sewage, drainage, affordable housing and road safety.

Resident Roger Ashmore said nothing had changed since previous planning refusals to justify the scheme, and raised concerns about access, housing density and the impact on the green corridor.

“My fundamental concern is that this one application could change the character of Fulbeck forever,” he said.

Consultant Richard Garland, representing the applicant and landowner, said previous planning refusals were between 17 and 40 years old and policies had changed.

He said relevant authorities were satisfied with sewage and drainage plans, the access road would be widened and junction improvements made, and the design was fitting.

“The site lies within the settlement boundary, has good access to nearby services and employment, and is well served by public transport,” he said.

Officers said that due to a lack of five-year housing land supply, the presumption was in favour of sustainable development, the scheme would provide housing ‘in the right place’, a financial contribution towards affordable homes off-site would be provided, and its impact on the landscape would not be so severe as to warrant refusal.

They said that Northumbrian Water, the Environment Agency and the council’s Sustainable Urban Drainage officer were satisfied that it would not increase flood risk.

However, Morpeth member Andrew Tebbutt said: “We have been told that the only way a lorry can turn into that site off the A192 is by coming from the south, but we have committed £30million to build a Morpeth Northern Bypass so that traffic comes in from the north. I’m very concerned that the situation of traffic turning into Fulbeck Lane has not been addressed. Vehicles having to turn 270 degrees seems to be a major safety issue.”

Moving refusal on grounds of the development’s height, mass, design and highway safety, Coun Trevor Thorne said: “This area of Morpeth is very special and it absolutely should be kept so. It deserves a more sensitive application. It is unique in that the houses seem to fit into the landscape. I’m very disappointed at what has been put forward. This development is for large executive houses that don’t fit in. It could be a housing development anywhere.”